Tarot Tuesday: Judgment

Judgment Rider Waite Smith


Religious looking card, isn’t it? Judgment borrows predominantly Christian imagery to show the resurrection of the dead. An angel (Gabriel, according to post-biblical Christian tradition) blows a horn to literally wake up corpses.

I have no issue with that. But I regret that the horn pictured here isn’t a shofar—the ram’s horn that’s been part of Judaism since ancient times. Back me up if you’ve been to High Holy Day services: if any sound can wake the dead, it’s the shofar’s blast. (Besides, Gabriel would definitely use a shofar.*)

But are we really talking about a literal resurrection here? If you’re using this card for brainstorming plots or characters, is that what needs to happen in your story?

Well, you can go that route. Think of Dean Winchester in the opening of Supernatural‘s fourth season—you know, when he crawled out of his own grave. (Thank you, Castiel, for pulling him out of hell.) That’s a powerful scene in an overall meaty episode. But you’d have to be writing a very particular type of story for that to work for you!

Lazarus Rising

Dean crawling out of his grave in Lazarus Rising (Supernatural 4.1)

For me, this card is more along the lines of Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones—which, okay, is probably the source of a lot of resurrection imagery. But stick with me here.

Ezekiel was a Jewish prophet during the Babylonian Exile. In his vision, he finds himself in a valley full of dry bones. God tells him that He can breathe life into these bones—that He can put sinews and flesh on them. It’s a magnificent passage but, in context, I don’t think it’s about physically raising the dead. I think it’s about bringing hope and a renewed sense of purpose to a defeated and despairing nation.

To the exiled Jews who first heard this vision—it must have struck them like the shofar’s blast. And that blast is really the point of this card.

No, you don’t need to bring a prophet into your story. But find something that blasts through whatever walls your character has built up, whatever anguish he’s suffering. A blast that casts everything he’s experienced in a new and transforming light. That, to me, is the essence of this card.

You might disagree—if so, I’d love to hear your interpretation! Leave a comment. Or, better yet, write your own meta or short story or poem on this card, and leave a link to it.

Meanwhile, we need a card for next week. I’m keeping this random (though I’ll discard repeats until we’ve gotten through the whole deck.) Okay, next week’s card will be the Five of Swords. Back to the Minor Arcana . . . the more every day stuff. Fewer angels and much less blasting, I’m afraid. But there is a good sword fight ahead!

*Okay, yes, I’m picturing Supernatural‘s Gabriel. But still!

About Jenn Moss

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5 Responses to Tarot Tuesday: Judgment

  1. Quintessential Editor says:

    The idea of the prophet is a smart one. They serve so many purposes in fiction it’s foolish to not take advantage of them. The prophet is one of the many archetypes that have been reproduced through the dawn of storytelling as well making it a powerful tool to tap into.

    I actually have an applicable example this time! (sort of)

    I use a telepathic mutant who controls and army of inbred radioactive cannibals as my prophet in Wastelander. He is the prophet and his ability to assemble base creatures who roam in packs into a larger army is the trumpet (or shofar) blast. As the army begins movement through middle America it instantly changes everyone’s perception of inbreeders. The largest group of inbreeders Drake had ever seen during his thirty years of wasteland debauchery was twelve. So when an organized army of hundreds begins eating, raping, and destroying everything in it’s path, his worldview changes in a second.

    Thanks for sharing another BA tarot card! I love these things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      This is a wonderful example of a revelatory moment. Of that second where you’re forced to see everything you thought you knew and understood in an entirely different light. (In a much more negative light, in this case, as Drake instantly recognizes a previously unknown danger!)

      I’m always amazed at how Tarot cards can work for authors writing all different kinds of fiction! But that’s the power of archetypes, I guess. And in the end, that’s what the Tarot is all about. Yes, there are lots of religious & philosophical stuff–Hermetic, Pagan, Jewish, Christian, etc. And those are all worth studying for anyone who wants to get deep into Tarot. But I find that sometimes just the pictures on the card, without all that background, are enough to spark a new understanding of one my characters or plots.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Quintessential Editor says:

        I really enjoy them. How many tarot cards are there? I guess I’m curious how many Tuesday’s worth of tarot cards we will have?


      • Jenn Moss says:

        There are 78 in the Rider-Waite-Smith, which is the closest we have to a “standard” deck. (I’ll probably start over when we’re done. Maybe I’ll go in order next time so we can see the progression of the cards within the Major Arcana and within each suit.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Quintessential Editor says:

        Awesome sauce! Looks like the well won’t be going dry anytime soon then.

        Liked by 1 person

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